Monday, January 30, 2012

Things that can happen in elevators

I admire Richard Dawkins immensely, but like most of us, his privilege shows from time to time.  Richard felt that there were bigger fish to fry than elevatorgate, such as the treatment of women in places like Saudi Arabia.  He was right that awful things happen and continue to happen to women there and under similar regimes every day.  It isn’t just the violence that’s problematic, it’s that women’s rights are virtually non-existent and that attitudes toward women are widely and horrifically contemptuous in principle and harmful in practice.  Women are to a greater or lesser extent (often greater) considered the property of men.  This is not just a disgrace, it is a moral and intellectual emergency.

I know Richard recognises that this shameful attitude toward women is an important root of this problem so I was disappointed that he apparently doesn’t see that the same kind of disrespect is rife in the West. He later wrote this:

No escape? I am now really puzzled. Here’s how you escape from an elevator. You press any one of the buttons conveniently provided. The elevator will obligingly stop at a floor, the door will open and you will no longer be in a confined space but in a well-lit corridor in a crowded hotel

Well, there’s this as reported by Ophelia Benson.  Some of the details of this story as it has been reported in the media seem dubious, but the fact is that a woman was severely beaten in a lift, presumably while trying to calmly press buttons to escape.  She was found in a pool of her own blood and her family says every bone in her face was broken. She was in a medically induced coma for a while and now she’s awake, the bits of her face are wired together.

A suspect has been identified by security video footage and he’s confessed, but his story is dubious in places.  For example, he says he punched her four or five times.  I happen to know that it takes a hell of a punch to break a face bone, let alone all of them.  If the family is right, then I’d expect the injuries to be more consistent with beating someone’s head against something like a handrail.

The suspect denies kicking the victim, though the video evidence seems to show him doing that.  He says he was just pushing his victim’s hand back inside the lift with his foot so the doors could close.  Obviously that’s far better than kicking her.

He says he encountered Nabb, who he said wasn’t wearing any clothes, at the sixth floor. When Quintero tried to prevent her from leaving he said she screamed, and he panicked.

“I didn’t try to abuse her, or I didn’t … I didn’t try to kill her or anything like … or rob her or anything. I was just afraid and I wanted to leave.”

Quintero said he covered Nabb’s mouth and asked her not to yell.

“But she continued yelling,” he said. “She got more afraid when I covered her mouth. And then I hit her … four or five times in the face with my fist. And then I left.”

(from here)

He was afraid?  He wanted to leave (why didn’t he follow the Dawkins procedure)?

Preventing her from leaving was obviously abuse.  Quintero says it as though it was somehow a reasonable act to restrain someone against her will for reasons he doesn’t explain.  When she screamed, he tried to stop her screaming rather than – say – just leaving.  And when his attempt to shut her up failed, he beat her half to death, then casually kicked her limp hand back inside the lift so that the doors could close.

Come on, Richard. Your heart was in the right place but you didn’t think this one through. And more importantly, come on numerous elevatorgate-related wankers who are determined that women shouldn’t be frightened when you corner them in secluded places.  Yeah, we know you’re going to beat or rape anyone, but some people clearly are.

So let’s go back to Rebecca’s original point: don’t you do that.

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